Thursday, November 10, 2011

At the River's Edge

It's a cold and gloomy day, with a smattering of snow on the ground. A quiet seems to have settled on everything. It feels peaceful and good.

Last night, while watching a few videos from one of my favorite albums, Leonard Cohen's "Ten New Songs," I was reminded of when I was a child and my father did some trapping of mink and ermine in order to make ends meet. We thought nothing of it. It's what men did to get enough money to put food on the table, maybe some women did, too.

I would sometimes ride along with him when he'd go to check his traps. He would park near a bridge, on the shoulder of a dirt road not too far from our house, and walk along the banks of a small creek. Sometimes he would return with nothing, sometimes he would bring home one or two and then he'd skin and stretch them out on small boards made for that purpose. 

Later, when I saw them on the boards, a smidgen of sadness would pass through, but I never took it any further than that. Never gave one second of thought to the fact that they would more than likely become part of a lady's coat. When you're young, you sometimes fail to connect the dots. At any age, we can fail to connect the dots. The news, on any given day, can attest to that. And, well, the late 1950's weren't exactly enlightened times. I'm not so sure these are, either, but I'll try to stay on track.

Anyway, I certainly hold no judgment of those who trapped then, nor of those who do now. There are those who feel it's essential for wildlife management. I don't know enough about that to have an opinion even. I love wildlife, emphasis on the life. That's all I know. And, I didn't decide to post this video because of the trapping aspect, although it is taken from the foreign film, "The Last Trapper,"  but because I found it to be quite beautiful, a visual treat, and Leonard Cohen is always worth a listen.

Though I take my song
From a withered limb,
Both song and tree,
They sing for him.


  1. Ah yes, then and now, we should not, can not judge those who had, or those who have, to make their way, along the way, the only way they knew or know how; the only way they really can, then or now, survive; it is survival for the self, the family, for the species, for the world.

  2. Hello Teresa:
    The video and the gravelly tones of Leonard Cohen transported us right to you with snow all around whilst you are warm and snug at home. We are seeing this just as we are about to retire for the night and so we hope to have sweet dreams of those white open spaces where Man and Nature are wild and free. Perfect!

  3. We were threatened with the white stuff butI am looking forward to some60's so I can play hard all weekend.

  4. I was lucky enough to see Mr. Cohen on this last tour. He was amazing with his 77 year old voice. And he is still the essence of style in his smart suit and hat.


  5. I am for life also. Hunting for food if there is a true need is one thing, but hunting for sport is dreadful.

    I was so lucky to see Leonard Cohen last year when he came to NZ. He was/is fabulous.

  6. Thank you so much. You have introduced me to someone I know I will enjoy.
    As for not connecting the dots, as you say, how could you? As a child you had no past experience to go by. We tend to forget that each day is new for all of us, even for us old folks. A new experience awaits us each day. We are not the same today as yesterday, in thougt, knowledge or spirit. We connect the dots according to our life experience.

  7. Gorgeous video and gorgeous music - not often the two are found together. I think I read where "The Last Trapper" was filmed in France. Anyway, I have no problem with culling herds, it's just that I myself couldn't do it. I can't even eat Bambi!

    The Fifties have evolved into myth, I sometimes think. A lot of people scraped by. But Ozzie and Harriet seem to prevail.

    Great post, Teresa!

  8. Thanks for this Teresa. Life is all about doing what must be done to survive and there is hardly any wrong in providing for one's family. Those times have returned it seems. Either there is hunting to provide or hunting for the sheer sport of it. There's an enormous difference, but then of course, you already are aware of that.

    I always used to listen to Cohen or Tom Waits or Dylan or Coltrane at bedtime. I forgot. Tonight I'm going to listen to Cohen. They always make me sleep well. :) Such men!

    I envy you the snow.

  9. What would any of us to do if our survival depended on it? That's a complex question. I never connected any dots when my father bow hunted deer when I was little. Growing up in a metropolitan supermarket world, I didn't realize where hot dogs and hamburgers and bologna came from for a long time. ;)

    Leonard Cohen has such a haunting voice that echoes with sadness. I can't believe I just ran across him online not that long ago and had never heard of him. His voice and this video were complementary. Sadly, that French documentary isn't listed on Netflix or it would be in my queue right this moment. But I think I am going to search a little on youtube... thanks, lady!! :):)

  10. I read your post last night and, as I sometimes do, I spent some time thinking on it before responding (or, in this case, I fell asleep and dreamt on it).

    What caught my attention was that the hunter took only what he could carry. He took such care with his team. There was a respect for the herd as a whole. Your father also took only what he needed to care for his family. I respect that as much as the hunter respected the herd in the video.

    Teresa, you have a remarkable ability to blend poetry, art, music, and your own evocative prose that leaves me thinking, questioning, digging a bit deeper. Thank you.

  11. Teresa,
    This is a haunting posting. The music echoes within my very soul. And the deep caring of this man, hunting to feed himself and probably his family, haunts me also because he is One with his dogs and with the caribou tribe.

    Thank you.

  12. Teresa, your gift of storytelling and this haunting (Dee said it well) post is now resonating within me. A wonderful way to begin my 11/11/11 day, filled with magical moments. This post is one.

  13. WOW on the video.

    "the late 1950's weren't exactly enlightened times"

    Ain't that the truth!

    Management is needed on some level for sure. What I remember from those days or what stands out is the incredible amount of wildlife there was on the ground,in the air and the water. Trees full of pheasants,stringers of fish from small creeks. It was everywhere.

    One odd thing was when we hunted rabbits we looked just as much in the trees. I've only ran across one other person who has said they shot rabbits out of trees too.

  14. What I love about this blogging community and my friends here, is all the ways that each of you contribute to my posts with your comments. I'm grateful for the conversations we have about the ideas that interest me and am passionate about. I find it to be reciprocal, the blogging and commenting that takes place here, and am always happy to hear from each one of you.

    Dee made a beautiful point about Oneness and it's that idea that continues to intrigue me the most, the connections we've made here that always lead me back to it.

    And, I'm grateful for the compassionate view you've each shown towards this hunter/trapper.

    Thank You All.

  15. When I was in Viet Nam in 2005 I bought a number of butterflies carved from water buffalo horn. I thought they made lovely mementos for the veterans I knew who had served there.

    Just today I was looking at a photo I took of one. And I thought, "My goodness, a water buffalo lost its horn for this carving." And I felt kind of sad about that. When I bought the butterflies, I never gave it a second thought.

  16. Thank You For Uncle Lenny !
    Re:Trapping.Needs Must I Suppose.Rather than banning The Deedlets look instead at The Reason For The Deed.

  17. One thing worth remembering is that in communities dependent on hunting for sustenance, nothing was wasted. Even today, in the bayous of Louisiana, across the tundra, in the woods and fields, there are those who not only eat the meat but process the skins, pluck and sell feathers, and so on.

    I have several chipped tools I uncovered at an Indian cooking mound on property in the Texas hill country, including scrapers used to process hides. I keep a few in my own kitchen, reminders to follow my own grandmother's advice: "Waste not, want not".

  18. We live in a different world now. Perhaps more aware of our impact, at least some, but more out of touch with who we are and from whence we came.

    I still hunt for food, something that some of my friends are troubled by. It is as much a part of my heritage as breath and water. I take only what I can nourish myself with, and take care to share this nourishment whenever I can.

    I am from the outdoors. And I am troubled by those who are not and judge what I do. But I do understand that they cannot connect with something so foreign to them.

  19. Linda, Tony, and shoreacres, thank you for reading and commenting and for understanding there's a larger picture we all can benefit from becoming more aware of.

    Wild Bill, I think those who hunt for food are more in touch with their food sources and there's a great benefit in that. Thanks for sharing your own experiences and perspective. They are always valued.